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Polish priest in stable condition after being stabbed before Mass

Wrocław, Poland, Jun 10, 2019 / 12:01 pm (CNA).- A Catholic priest in Wrocław is in stable condition after reportedly being stabbed before morning Mass on Monday, Polish sources are reporting.

A spokesperson with University Clinical Hospital in Wrocław told the Polish press agency PAP that the priest, Fr. Ireneusz Bakalarczyk, was recovering well from surgery that treated internal injuries in his chest and abdomen that he reportedly sustained during the June 10 stabbing.

Fr. Bakalarczyk was on his was to celebrate Mass at the church of the Blessed Virgin Mary on the Sand, in the city center of Wrocław, when a 57 year-old man approached him and started a conversation about the sex abuse scandals in the Catholic Church, before allegedly pulling out a knife and stabbing the priest in the chest and abdomen, according to local news channel TVP Info.

Łukasz Dutkowiak, a spokesperson for the local police, told PAP that the attacker was detained by witnesses immediately after the incident until the police arrived.

Rafal Kowalski, a spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Wrocław, told PAP that he could not confirm whether the homeless man actually spoke to the priest before attacking him. He added that the alleged stabbing did not seem to be motivated by a personal grievance against Bakalarczyk, and that the attacker seemed to have been willing to attack any “man in a cassock.”

The attacker is in custody, and charges will be brought against him Tuesday, officials told PAP.

Last month's release of a documentary on clergy sex abuse in Poland had prompted a national conversation in Poland. The film presents allegations that abusive priests were shifted between parishes, and shows people confronting elderly priests alleged to have abused them as children.

The nation's bishops are speaking out against sexual abuse, pledging to continue to “eliminate factors conducive to crime” as well as to adopt a more sensitive attitude toward victims than in the past.

A study commissioned by the Polish bishops' conference and released in March revealed nearly 400 Polish priests were accused of sexual abuse of more than 600 people from 1990 until 2018. Just over half of reported victims were under the age of 15. Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki of Poznan, president of the Polish bishops' conference, called the report’s findings “tragic.”

In a May 22 letter, the Polish bishops urged: “Let us not let the good, that is done in the Church through their ministry, be obscured by the sins of particular persons.”

“On the principle of collective responsibility, let us not also convey the guilt of particular people in cassocks to all priests. These people committed these acts and they should be punished for their actions. Let us support in these difficult times the priests who work with sacrifice so that they don’t lose their enthusiasm and receive encouragement from the lay faithful.”

Zanchetta to stand trial in Argentina for sexual abuse of seminarians

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Jun 10, 2019 / 09:30 am (CNA).- Bishop Gustavo Zanchetta has been criminally charged with sexually assaulting two seminarians before a court in Argentina. The bishop has been barred from leaving the country and ordered to undergo a psychological examination. 

The decision to charge Zanchetta was made June 6. The bishop arrived in Argentina earlier last week, having been in Rome and Spain. The court-ordered examination is expected to take place on Wednesday, June 12.  

A Vatican trial of the allegations against Zanchetta is also underway.

Zanchetta, bishop emeritus of Orán, Argentina, was first accused of sexually inappropriate behavior in 2015. At that time, it was discovered that his cell phone contained various sexual images, including nude selfies. The bishop claimed his phone and computer had been hacked, and that the accusations were motivated by people who did not support Pope Francis.

Zanchetta and Pope Francis have been close for years, and one of the pope’s first acts in office was to appoint him as a bishop.

None of the alleged pornographic images on his phone are reported to be of minors.

Zanchetta stepped down from the diocese in August of 2017, ostensibly due to health issues. Four months later, he was appointed by Pope Francis as the Assessor to the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See, a position that Pope Francis created for Zanchetta.

The Vatican has stated twice that they did not know about Zanchetta’s misdeeds until 2018, a claim that is disputed by Fr. Juan José Manzano, the former vicar general of the Diocese of Orán. Manzano claims that he reported Zanchetta in 2015, after the pornographic images were found on his phone. Manzano says he also reported him again in 2017.

In 2016, a complaint was made against Zanchetta that accused him of “problematic behavior” with seminarians. This behavior included entering their rooms at night, requesting massages from them, waking up seminarians in the morning, sitting on their beds, and drinking alcohol with them.

That complaint stated that Zanchetta had an “obsessive omnipresence” in the seminary that made the seminarians very uncomfortable. Pope Francis has said that "there is no doubt that the clergy did not feel well treated by him."

In May, the pope confirmed that a preliminary investigation into the bishop had concluded and the matter was proceeding to a canonical trial.

Francis said that the charges had been given over to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith who will conduct the process. "They will make a trial, they will issue a sentence and I will promulgate it," the pope stated.

If convicted by the civil court in Argentina, Zanchetta could face between three and 10 years in prison.

Guam governor wants to expand abortion, but local doctors are unwilling

Hagatna, Guam, Jun 9, 2019 / 04:24 am (CNA).- The government of the island of Guam is offering waivers and discounts for contraception through a public health clinic, and the territory’s governor has said she wants to find a doctor willing to perform abortions, after the retirement of the island’s last abortionist.

Governor Lourdes Leon Guerrero, a former nurse who took office in January, recently expressed her wish to expand abortion access in the state, but no doctors on the island are willing to perform abortions.

Though abortion is legal in some cases in Guam, the territory’s last abortion doctor retired in May 2018.

“I'm concerned about [abortion] going underground because then we can't really control it, we can't really monitor, we can't really make sure that the women are doing it in an environment that is conducive to a healthy recovery,” she told the AP last week.

Guam is predominantly Catholic, and Guerrero has said that finding a doctor willing to perform abortions there “will take some work.” She said officials are trying to recruit doctors to come to the island and establish clinics.

Abortion is legal in Guam up to 13 weeks or up to 26 weeks in case of rape or incest, but anyone who terminates a pregnancy without help from a doctor can be charged with a felony, the AP reports. Doctors also have the legal right to refuse to perform an abortion except in the case of a medical emergency.

Women in Guam seeking abortions must fly thousands of miles from the island to seek abortions elsewhere, the AP reports. Many go to Hawaii, as the nearest mainland country, the Philippines, does not allow abortion. U.S. federal law applies in Guam and its people are U.S. citizens; the island is home to about 170,000 residents.

Despite this, there have only two or three Guam women given abortions in Hawaii since last year, and none was an elective procedure, an OB-GYN and University of Hawaii professor told the AP.

The morning after pill, an abortifacient drug, is available in Guam over the counter and by prescription for women over 18.

Pro-life activism on the island, led by the Guam Catholic Pro-Life Committee, saw hundreds of pro-life advocates march in Guam’s first annual Rally for Life in January.

Costa Rica considers bill threatening seal of confession

San José, Costa Rica, Jun 8, 2019 / 03:23 pm (CNA).- A bill in Costa Rica would require Catholic priests to violate the seal of confession to report cases of suspected child sex abuse. Its sponsor says he was inspired by similar legislation advancing in the state of California.

Costa Rica’s Legislative Assembly is considering a proposal to require clergy, coaches, and other individuals who work with youth to report allegations of sexual abuse of minors. Currently, only teachers and health care personnel are required to report suspected abuse.

President Carlos Alvarado told La Nación, “As a nation, we have seen the issue of violence, which is sexual in this case against children, is a problem that concerns us on the basis of evidence and is something important to learn.”

Catholic officials in the country have opposed the bill, stressing that the seal of confession is inviolable.

According to QCostaRica.com, a local Catholic Church spokesman said the bill is “a danger to the practice of religious freedom” and argued that it “does nothing in the cause of justice.”

Canon law describes the seal of the confessional to be “inviolable,” and priests are “absolutely forbidden” to disclose the sins of a penitent “in any way, for any reason.” Violation of the seal by a priest is a grave crime against the faith and is punished by an automatic excommunication which can be augmented with other penalties, including dismissal from the clerical state.

The bill is being sponsored by Enrique Sánchez, who has said he was inspired by a similar bill in California. That legislation has sparked controversy and sharp criticism from opponents.

An initial draft of the California bill would have compelled the violation of the sacramental seal any time a priest came to suspect abuse from any penitent. However, the bill was amended and the version that passed the Senate would only require priests to report any knowledge or suspicion of child abuse gained while hearing the confession of another priest or colleague. The bill now goes to the California State Assembly.

Critics of the California legislation argue that even in its final form, the legislation is a serious violation of religious freedom with which priests cannot comply. They also maintain that the legislation would not be enforceable, due to the private nature of confession, and would do little to actually protect minors from clerical sexual abuse.

U.S. Bishops to Meet June 11-14 in Baltimore; Assembly to Be Live Streamed, Carried Via Satellite; New Prevention Website Launched

WASHINGTON— The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) will gather for the 2019 Spring General Assembly in Baltimore, June 11-14.  

During the assembly, the bishops will discuss and vote on bishop accountability measures to respond to the abuse crisis and will also hear reports from the National Advisory Council and an annual progress report by the National Review Board. The bishops will also discuss and vote on the National Directory for the Formation, Ministry, and Life of Permanent Deacons in the United States (2nd edition); and on the final approval of revisions made to the second typical edition of the ICEL Gray Book of the Ordination of a Bishop, of Priests, and of Deacons, among other items.

The USCCB has also launched a new website highlighting the importance of prevention, protection and accountability in response to the ongoing effort to eradicate clergy sexual abuse. As the American bishops prepare to meet in Baltimore for their Spring General Assembly next week, this new site serves as a resource detailing the steps the American bishops are taking to confront this crisis.

On the site, Readers can browse through the layers of the Holy Father’s Motu Proprio, the 2002 Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People and its progress, as well as the new reforms set to be discussed in Baltimore. There are also numerous readily available resources to address any instance of clergy sexual abuse.

Explore the website by visiting: usccbprevention.org

Coverage of the meeting is open to credentialed media on Tuesday, June 11, Wednesday (partial day), June 12, and the morning of Thursday, June 13. Press conferences will follow open sessions of the meeting as time allows. Due to limited capacity, please note there will be no onsite credentialing due to security considerations.

A live stream and satellite feed is expected to run Tuesday, June 11 from 8:30am-6pm Eastern, Wednesday, June 12, 11am-6pm Eastern and Thursday, June 13, 8:45am to 1:15pm. The assembly will be live streamed on the Internet and will be available via satellite for broadcasters wishing to air it. Public sessions of the general assembly discussions and votes will be available via livestream at: usccb.org/live.

News updates, vote totals, texts of addresses and presentations and other materials will be posted to this page: usccb.org/meetings as soon as possible during the general assembly.

Those wishing to follow the meeting on social media can use the hashtag #USCCB19 and follow on Twitter (twitter.com/usccb) as well as on Facebook (facebook.com/usccb) and Instagram (instagram.com/usccb).

Media outlets interested in taking the meeting's satellite feed may request coordinates by contacting jkeane@usccb.org

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Keywords: USCCB, U.S. bishops, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, June meeting, Spring General Assembly, Baltimore, sex abuse, prevention, protection, accountability, #USCCB19
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Media Contact:
Judy Keane
202-541-3200

 

Chairman of U.S. Bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace, Offers Condolences and Solidarity to the Church in Burkina Faso after multiple terrorist attacks on Churches

WASHINGTON— In a letter to Archbishop Ouédraogo Paul Yembuado, President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Burkina Faso and Niger, Most Reverend Timothy P. Broglio, Archbishop for the Military Services USA and Chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace said:

“I write to express our condolences and solidarity with the people and the Catholic Bishops Conference of Burkina Faso as you struggle with the ongoing wave of violent terrorist attacks. It is tragic these attacks have increased…and have taken the lives of approximately 400 Burkinabe people since 2015. I join the Holy Father in his statements and expressions of condolences and support in reaction to these church attacks and add my own following the most recent attack on a Catholic church 26 May in Toulfé that killed four people.

Burkina Faso has struggled to build a democratic country where Christians and Muslims have lived side by side in peace [which is now] being tested to the extreme. It is my hope the Burkinabe people will persevere and protect [their] liberty, democracy, and the right to freedom of religion.”

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Keywords: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Archbishop Timothy Broglio, Burkina Faso

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Media Contact:
Judy Keane
202-541-3200

 

Cuban archdiocese opens home for the elderly

Camagüey, Cuba, Jun 6, 2019 / 04:18 pm (CNA).- The Archdiocese of  Camagüey inaugurated the Archbishop Adolfo Home for the Elderly to serve the city's seniors last month.

During the May 25 event, Archbishop Wilfredo Pino Estevez of Camagüey said the initiative shows how the Cuban state and Church can cooperate.

“I believe that the Public Health System and the Church have set an example of how we can work together to achieve a common good. And that is something we must continue to maintain,” the prelate said. He also encouraged the initiative “to be multiplied in other areas in which the Cuban Church and the state could work together.”

“In the end, we are all at the service of one and the same Cuban people,” he said.

The prelate highlighted the presence of the Camillian Sisters who will serve the elderly.

The home bears the name of Archbishop Adolfo Rodríguez Herrera, who led the diocese for 40 years. The facility took 13 years to build and constitutes a great achievement for the Church in Cuba.

The prelate also recalled the letter that Archbishop Rodriguez wrote 18 years ago addressed to a Cuban official about the project: “I wish to take the opportunity to reiterate to you that the Church does not seek to compete nor to overshadow other institutions of this kind. For centuries (and in Cuba for 500 years), the Church, by a mandate from Jesus Christ, has raised up the first schools, hospitals, leprosariums, and asylums, when there was no one to compete with nor to eclipse. Experience, also in Camagüey, before and now, shows that a school, a hospital, an asylum... does not compete, rather it stimulates, establishes a healthy emulation that benefits everyone. A Home for the Elderly, is not a productive business but an under appreciated service for a very difficult stage in life which is old age.”

Archbishop Pino commented: “All of us who knew him will never forget the saintly bishop who taught us, in word and deed  to always trust in the Lord, a conviction that made him a serene and positive being even in the dark and difficult hours of our history!”

He likewise recognized the support of “so many people and institutions, inside and outside the country, who, with their financial contributions according to their means, made this construction possible.” He also thanked the lay people, deacons, priests, sisters and others others who got involved and helped the project go forward.

“Thanks for the example you gave us in reminding us that this work does not belong to one group but of all of you!”

Also present at the dedication was the Bishop Domingo Oropesa Lorente of Cienfuegos, whom Pino also thanked for the efforts he made benefiting this great work.

Remembering D-Day imposes 'homage of respect', 'duty to prevent conflicts'

Bayeux, France, Jun 6, 2019 / 02:27 pm (CNA).- Marking Thursday's 75th anniversary of the Normandy landings during World War II, bishops from across the world said the operations recall the need for peace and the duty of gratitude to veterans.

Some 156,000 Allied forces landed on five beaches of Normandy June 6, 1944 to liberate the European continent from Nazi German occupation. About 4,400 Allied servicemen died that day, and there were between 4,000 and 9,000 German casualties.

Within a year of D-Day, Nazi Germany had been defeated.

Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, gave an address June 5 at the Abbey of Saint-Étienne in Caen, not far from the landing sites.

“Seventy-five years after the end of the Second World War, the memory of the victims of this massacre imposes on us a homage of respect and a duty to prevent conflicts by all means,” he said.

“Believing in peace” implies “an increased rational commitment to transform the world according to the imperative of unconditional respect for the dignity of the human person, unfortunately undermined by ideological colonization hostile to the sanctity of human life,” he said.

“In this difficult context, believing in peace also means relying on the efficiency of prayer for peace, since the Spirit of God directs human history towards its transcendent accomplishment with the imperfect but voluntary support of human freedoms.”

Cardinal Ouellet lamented the terrible cost of the World Wars: “The bitter feeling of the monstrous cost of these conflicts remains a heavy legacy that does not erase what has been achieved in the positive and generous achievements in European reconstruction. That is why remembering the end of the last great conflict is a duty of respect for the too many victims of these tragedies and a permanent requirement for reflection and commitment to prevent such disasters from happening again in the future.”

“There is a constant need for reflection and commitment to prevent such tragedies,” he stated. “But man does not seem to have learned much from his past sufferings: we are experiencing a globalization of oblivion and indifference to the victims of today, and conflicts have not ceased to increase and fragment on all continents.”

Archbishop Timothy Broglio of the US Military Services marked the anniversary saying: “On my last visit to Normandy in 2015 I was struck by the number of French men and women who came up to me and said: ‘We will never forget what your countrymen did here.’ Indeed it is important to remember and give thanks for the sacrifices made on the beaches of Normandy and elsewhere in Europe and in the Pacific Theater.”

“We are continually reminded of the commitment of those who have gone before us and we pause on this 6th day of June to give thanks for those who 75 years ago made the ultimate sacrifice on the beaches of Normandy to liberate Europe from the Nazis and to defend the cause of freedom for all humanity. As we pause to honor their memory, we thank them for their sacrifice. As Christians, we pray for the repose of their souls and pray for their families. Can we forget all who lost their lives because of their religion or ethnic group? We recognize that all people are created in the image of God and pledge to live that belief in the day-to-day activities of ordinary life.”

The archbishop said that “Christ reminds us there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. We give thanks to God Almighty for all the brave servicemen and women who have faithfully kept the Lord’s commandment to love their compatriots even to the point of death throughout the course of our nation’s history from the time of its birth.”

He added that “we ask God that their sacrifice not be in vain. We beg Him to transform our power to turn war into a force for peace, to transform our weapons into plowshares, to give us the ability to negotiate, to talk, and to listen. We pray to remain vigilant against the forces of evil in our troubled world, and to pour our energies into building lasting peace and justice among nations.”

Pope Francis, in a May 31 letter to Bishop Jean-Claude Boulanger of Bayeux-Lisieux, reflected that the Normandy landings were “decisive in the struggle against Nazi barbarism and that they opened the way to the end of this war which so profoundly wounded Europe and the world.”

“That is why I remember with gratitude all the soldiers who, coming from several countries including France, had the courage to commit themselves and to give their lives for freedom and peace. I entrust them to the infinitely merciful love of the Lord, as well as the millions of victims of this war, without forgetting those who, on the German side, fought in obedience to a regime animated by a deadly ideology.”

Pope Francis names delegate to oversee pilgrims at Lourdes shrine

Lourdes, France, Jun 6, 2019 / 10:09 am (CNA).- Pope Francis has appointed a special delegate to oversee the pastoral care of pilgrims and other management at the Marian shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes in France.

Pope Francis named Bishop Antoine Hérouard, 62, auxiliary bishop of the diocese of Lille, France, a delegate “ad nutum Sanctae Sedis,” meaning “at the disposition of the Holy See.”

According to an editorial by Andrea Tornielli in Vatican News, the position is intended to be for a temporary, though unspecified, period.

The announcement of Hérouard’s appointment was made at the French shrine by Archbishop Rino Fisichella, the president of the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization, which has been charged with overseeing Catholic shrines since 2017.

Fisichella read aloud a letter sent by Pope Francis for the occasion. The letter noted that Fisichella had been sent to the shrine “as a special envoy” in recent months, and following his assessment, the pope desired “to understand what further form the Sanctuary of Lourdes might adopt, beyond the many already in place, in order to become ever more a place of prayer and of Christian witness corresponding to the needs of the People of God.”

The shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes in southern France is the site where young Bernadette Soubirous witnessed Marian apparitions beginning on Feb. 11, 1858. It is a popular pilgrimage destination for individuals with special devotions to Mary and for those seeking healing from a variety of ailments. Many miraculous cures have been associated with the site. It is estimated to have between 1 and 3 million visitors a year.

Typically, the shrine falls under the jurisdiction of the bishop of Tarbes and Lourdes, which is Bishop Nicolas Brouwet, 56. According to French news site, Le Figaro, Brouwet said in a statement June 6 that the appointment of a delegate “is a testimony of the pope’s interest in our sanctuary.”

“This help is welcome to help us better structure our internal organization and to make us more and more at the service of the pilgrims. During his tenure at the shrine, Bishop Hérouard will preside over the Lourdes Council and make all the decisions that seem appropriate for the life of the sanctuary,” the bishop said.

Le Figaro reported that the shrine employs around 330 people. Lourdes has seen around a 34% decline in diocesan pilgrimages in the last decade, though there has been about a 12% increase in individual or family pilgrimages.

Until 2018, the shrine had also been running a budgetary deficit for about a decade. However, on April 8 officials announced the shrine ended the 2018 fiscal year with a surplus of 200,000 euros ($225,000) after the 2013 hiring of a former HR director to help get the shrine out of debt.

Le Figaro reported that the shrine overcame the deficit by cutting operating costs, increasing the sale of candles, and a slight increase in the contribution asked from organized pilgrimages.
 

U.S. Bishops’ Pro-Life Chairman Strongly Commends Trump Administration for Discontinuing Fetal Tissue Research at NIH

WASHINGTON—Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced that it will discontinue research conducted within the National Institutes of Health (NIH) involving the use of human fetal tissue from elective abortion and it will ensure that efforts to develop ethical alternatives are funded and accelerated. Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, Chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Pro-Life Activities issued the following statement strongly commending the Trump Administration for this important pro-life action.

Archbishop Naumann’s full statement follows:

“We strongly commend the Trump Administration for taking actions to move our tax dollars away from research using body parts from aborted babies and toward ethical alternatives. Scavenging and commodifying the body parts of abortion victims for use in research gravely disrespects the bodies of these innocent human beings. Their remains deserve the same respect as that of any other person. To subsidize this degrading practice with our taxpayer dollars is deeply offensive to millions of Americans. Further, the use of fetal tissue procured from aborted babies also can lead to legitimizing the violence of abortion by suggesting that body parts procured in abortion are necessary for research. In truth, research using fetal tissue from aborted babies is neither ethical nor necessary. Researchers have demonstrated the ability to pursue excellence in medical research without collaborating with the abortion industry to further victimize aborted babies.”

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Keywords: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Abp. Joseph F. Naumann, Committee on Pro-Life Activities, Trump Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health (NIH), human fetal tissue, elective abortion, medical research, commodifying, ethical alternatives, abortion industry

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Media Contact:
Judy Keane
202-541-3200